Hands-on Gear Review

Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion Review

Editors' Choice Award
Price:  $25 List | $24.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Durable, comfortable, wide temperature regulation, versatile, fitted
Cons:  Not ideal for hot temperatures, slow to dry
Bottom line:  Best for men interested in a three-season full-length merino wool sock that boasts comfort, breathability, and warmth.
Editors' Rating:   
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Material:  66% merino wool, 32% nylon, 2% lycra spandex
Sock Category:  Mid-weight
Length:  High calf
Manufacturer:   Darn Tough

Our Verdict

The Darn Tough Full Cushion wraps comfort and performance into one award-winning package. This Editors' Choice winner stands out for its wide range of temperature regulation attributed to its mid-weight merino-wool blend. It wicks, breathes well, and provides unbeatable durability. Because of its great performance, we think it's an excellent option for a wide range of outdoor pursuits in all sorts of weather, complete with a male-specific fit.

The race for Editors' Choice was tight as the Smartwool PhD Crew sock proved to be much more comfortable with its super cozy and thick merino-blend sole. However, the Smartwool PhD wasn't as breathable or as durable. It also doesn't come with an awesome lifetime guarantee like the Darn Tough! This makes it a better contender with better value. Overall, this ultra-durable Editors' Choice award winner will keep your feet comfortable and protected mile-after-mile, year after year.

Need a Cooler Boot Sock?
There are some days where you need a full boot sock, but it's over 90F outside. Darn Tough has come up with the Coolmax Boot Sock for just such days. This boot sock still has the full boot cushion you're looking for with engineered Coolmax fabric to help wick away more moisture in those warmer climates. Check these socks out if you still need a full cushion sock during the hottest of days.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hiking Socks


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Amber King
Senior Review Editor

Last Updated:
Wednesday
December 13, 2017

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The Darn Tough Full Cushion is our Editors' Choice award winner for men. This full-length merino-blend hiking sock is best for adventuring during the fall, spring, and winter months in cold to warm temperatures. Its performance extends to all types of weather conditions including cold and wet to sunny and dry.

Performance Comparison


A look at the Full Cushion  our Editors' Choice pick for men.
A look at the Full Cushion, our Editors' Choice pick for men.

Comfort


This Editors' Choice is streamlined to fit like a lightweight sock but with mid-weight cushion. The forefoot and heel feature a little more extra to help provide more comfort in areas of high use - but not too much that the fabric can't breathe.

Featuring a 66% merino wool, 32% nylon, and 2% lycra spandex blend, this mid-weight hiking sock provides excellent cushion underfoot with a streamlined fit, scoring an eight out of ten in this category. Putting it on is like slipping your foot into a soft, breathable blanket. The merino wool blend is soft to the touch, while the spandex and lycra keep the sock from slipping down while adventuring. The compression paneling concentrated around the arch of the foot and the ankle provides additional support without allowing it to bunch on the trail. We loved the length of the sock that easily accommodates a hiking boot.


Of all the socks tested, the Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Sock was one of the few that performed at a similar level. The fit is a little different. Our testers commented that the Smartwool has tighter, more defined compression paneling and softer fabrics, though it does not have the added sock height. As a result, the Smartwool PhD (Our Notable Mention for Comfort & Versatility) scored a little higher in this category.

These socks are tight fitting with decent cushion and adaptable. Wear each with a sock or a hiking boot.
These socks are tight fitting with decent cushion and adaptable. Wear each with a sock or a hiking boot.

Falling in the trend of better comfort among Smartwool contenders, the Smartwool Hike Medium - Women's also scored a little higher in this category because it boasts thicker materials underfoot and a similar level of comfort. Many of our female testers also preferred this female-specific design, making it our Editors' Choice winner for women.

Overall, the Full Cushion sock is super cozy and comfortable, though it's not the most comfortable contender out there.

The Full Cushion offers great comfort in the form of compression paneling and padding in the forefoot and heel.
The Full Cushion offers great comfort in the form of compression paneling and padding in the forefoot and heel.

Warmth


Boasting the best in warmth of all the models tested, the Full Cushion scores a solid nine out of ten in this category. The 66% merino wool, 32% nylon, 2% lycra spandex blend does a great job at insulating feet when wet and dry. We appreciate a tall sock that provides additional warmth on cold days. In our testing, we observed that this contender kept our feet warm in temperatures in the low 20s (degree Fahrenheit) while hiking and standing around. It scored a nine out of ten in this category.


Comparatively, the Smartwool PhD performed at a similar level keeping our feet warm in similar conditions. However, because the length of the sock is much lower, we found that overall warmth wasn't as ample as the Darn Tough Full Cushion or the Smartwool Hike Medium (for women). As a result, it scored a little less in this category.

If you're not in the market for a super warm sock, perhaps a lightweight option is a better choice. Be sure to check out the Darn Tough Light Hiker for men or the Darn Tough Micro Crew for women, Our Top Picks for Warm Weather. Both feature a lightweight material that insulates well for use in the Spring, Fall, and Summer. The Full Cushion is a better option for Fall, Spring, and Winter.

Testing each sock for dry warmth in the Alaskan Range. Here we test the Darn Tough Full Cushion and Smartwool PhD head to head to see which kept our feet warmer in just a thin pair down booties on snow. In this particular test  the Smartwool won for its thicker fabric design.
Testing each sock for dry warmth in the Alaskan Range. Here we test the Darn Tough Full Cushion and Smartwool PhD head to head to see which kept our feet warmer in just a thin pair down booties on snow. In this particular test, the Smartwool won for its thicker fabric design.

Wicking and Breathability


The fine gauge merino wool allows great breathability while running, hiking, or backpacking.


Featuring a fine gauge merino wool blend, this sock wicks and breathes. Our testers took it running, backpacking, and hiking, where it excelled in warm to cool weather conditions. The fitted designs wick moisture away from the skin and push it to the outside of the fabric, keeping skin dry. We also noticed that water beads on the fabric (not immediately absorbing) which provides excellent wicking capabilities. This makes it an ideal three-season sock option, best for fall, spring, and winter, scoring a seven out of ten in this category.


Even though it is thicker than other contenders like the Darn Tough Light Hiker (our Top Pick for Warm Weather), it is one of the most breathable of all thick socks. This contender was ideal for running on cold winter mornings, keeping feet dry even with high-intensity activity. That said, there is a limit to what it can do. Given its high boot height, it's very warm and not recommended for wear on super hot days. Use a lightweight option like the Light Hiker or the Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool for warm summer days.

A look at the breathable fabric around the calf that keeps legs dry on warmer days.
A look at the breathable fabric around the calf that keeps legs dry on warmer days.

Durability


Like the name infers, this sock is truly "Darn Tough". It, like all other socks from Darn Tough, scored a solid nine out of ten in this category. The merino wool construction provides durability for years to come. In our testing, we put it through the wringer. We wore it while trekking through varying microclimates of the high Peruvian Andes for a month. We took it splitboarding in the Central Alaska mountain range for a week. We also went backpacking through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.


Overall, we put in over 60 miles of hard hiking, running, and snowboarding, and in the end, we saw some pilling around the heel and midfoot. For a hiking sock, this is truly impressive. The only contender that looked newer was our Best Buy winner - the Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro, which is a synthetic blend that offers more durable polymer fibers but compromises warmth for its durability. What's more is the Full Cushion comes with a lifetime warranty - like all Darn Tough products. This means that if you get a hole in the material, you can send it back for a brand new pair. That said, if it's served you well and you like Darn Tough, do them a solid and just buy another pair to support a company that makes exceptional products.

Even after 60 miles of use we didn't see any serious fabric compaction or pilling. We were truly impressed with this Darn Tough sock!
Even after 60 miles of use we didn't see any serious fabric compaction or pilling. We were truly impressed with this Darn Tough sock!

Drying Speed


Of all the competitors tested, we are sad to say that it performed the worst in our drying tests. Scoring a five out of ten, we learned that this sock absorbed the most water of all tested and took the longest to dry. That said, when looking at the rate of drying, it is on par with other contenders in this review. Though, because it held more water to begin with, it took longer than others.

That said, in our field tests while hiking through streams, our testers found that the sock dried quickly enough while hiking in the summer and spring, and socks dried out within a couple of hours in direct sunlight. As a result, we'd still recommend them for periods of wet weather, but not if your hiking trips call for rain the whole time.


If you're in the market for a sock that dries quickly, we recommend the Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro, a fast drying synthetic option. It dries the fastest in our drying tests. A quick-drying merino sock option is the Danish Unisex Merino Wool Sock, the quickest drying merino wool blend in this review. Both are great options for wet adventures in the wild.

A look at the comparative weights during our dryer tests. Here the vertical line with the name of the sock shows the time at which each dried in our controlled in-lab tests.
A look at the comparative weights during our dryer tests. Here the vertical line with the name of the sock shows the time at which each dried in our controlled in-lab tests.

Best Application


As one of the most versatile socks tested, the Full Cushion is ideal for just about anything (except for the hottest summer days). Its wonderful balance of warmth, comfort, and breathability makes it a great option for a plethora of activities. It's a solid gear choice for multi-day backpacking trips, day hikes, skiing, and more. If hot weather hikes are more your style, consider the Darn Tough Light Hiker instead.

Jared hikes  snowboards  and hangs out in the Full Cushion sock. Talk about great comfort and versatility! Take this quick-drying sock everywhere from backcountry skiing to day hiking to backpacking.
Jared hikes, snowboards, and hangs out in the Full Cushion sock. Talk about great comfort and versatility! Take this quick-drying sock everywhere from backcountry skiing to day hiking to backpacking.

Value


Don't let the high price of this sock scare you. For just $24, you get a sock that truly has it all. The lifetime guarantee also means you can trade in any sock that wears bare. If you're looking for a contender that doesn't cost as much with exceptional value, check out the Wigwam Hiker Pro for just $14.00 (Our Best Buy winner). Or if you're looking to pinch your pennies, the Danish Merino Wool Unisex Sock for roughly $8/sock (comes in a three pack). Or if you're a fan of ankle-length hiking options, look at the People's Merino Wool Sock (unisex) for roughly $6 per sock (comes in a four pack).

Conclusion


The Darn Tough Full Cushion sock is a favorite amongst our male testers for its great durability and balanced performance that will have you hiking mile after mile.

Amber King

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Most recent review: December 13, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (5.0)
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